French government officials announced Tuesday they are looking to ban the import of hydraulically fractured, or fracked, natural gas from America.
“I’m going to examine legally how we can prohibit the import of shale gas, and in any case, these businesses will have to shift towards other markets to import only conventional gas,” Segolene Royal, France’s energy minister, told lawmakers Tuesday.
Fracking has been banned in France since 2013 due to objections from environmentalists, but roughly 40 percent of the natural gas imported by France’s two utilities, Électricité de France and Engie, comes from U.S. fracking.
“At first I thought this was some kind of a joke but after seeing several news stories I realized that this was a serious response,” Richard D. Kauzlarich, former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan and Bosnia who frequently writes about the effect of energy exports on American foreign policy, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The current government is very weak and under political pressure from both the left and right…. [T]his does not make economic sense whatever the political objective the Minister is trying to achieve. I expect that this will not be a quick decision and that French industry will push back.”
American policymakers and experts like Kauzlarich say that exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) will have positive economic consequences for the U.S., while simultaneously allowing allied nations to avoid buying Russian natural gas.
LNG has the potential to reduce the reliance of Russia’s ability to use state-controlled energy companies, such as Gazprom, as a political weapon against America’s European allies. About half of Europe’s imported natural gas comes from Russia. Russia used interruptions in the natural gas supply in 2006, 2009 and 2015 to put political pressure on Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states. This dependence prevented many of America’s European allies from responding more forcefully to Russian actions in Syria and Ukraine.
“If markets work without the artificial intervention suggested by the Minister, it is not clear that France will be the best market for US LNG exports. The Balts and Eastern Europe may be better markets,” Kauzlarich continued. “On the other hand if she goes ahead with her proposal, withholding gas from the French market could make the French chemical industry less competitive — if gas prices are high relative to the prices the US chemical industry pays for natural gas inputs this could put those segments of French industry relying on gas inputs less competitive to US industry in similar production lines.”
America is already planing to ramp up natural gas exports internationally, especially in the European market. In America, five new LNG export terminals are under construction and will be capable of exporting roughly 10 billion cubic feet of gas per day.
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